The Royal National Park Community Guide

Welcome to the Royal National Park


The Royal National Park is a national park, located 29 km south of Sydney. Founded in 1879 by Sir John Robertson, Premier of New South Wales, it is the world's second oldest purposed national park, the first usage of the term "national park" after Yellowstone in the United States. Its original name was The National Park, but it was renamed in 1955 after a visit by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. (It could be argued that the Royal is the oldest gazetted national park because Yellowstone's original gazetting was "recreation area.") The Royal was added to the list of the National Heritage in December, 2006.


The park includes the settlements of Audley, Maianbar and Bundeena. There was once a railway line connected to the City Rail Illawarra line but this has now closed. The Sydney Tramway Museum, at Loftus currently runs a tram line on this allotment.

Audley can be accessed by road, and there are several railway stations on the outskirts of the park. Bundeena and Maianbar can also be accessed by road through the park or by the passenger ferry service from Cronulla. Road access is also possible from the south at Otford near Stanwell Park.

There are numerous walking trails, BBQ areas & picnic sites throughout the park. Mountain Biking is allowed on Fire Trails and on specially marked tracks within the Park. The specially marked Mountain Biking tracks are bi-directional; care should be taken when traversing these trails. There is a car park just within the Park to leave vehicles. A fee of $11.00 Australian applies when taking a car into the Park.

One popular walk is the coast walk. It is a two-day walk, involving walking from Bundeena to North Era and camping for the night. The next day's walk proceeds to Otford, where there is a railway station. This walk is often done as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.

There were big bushfires in 1994 that burnt large parts of the park. These areas are being rehabilitated.

There are camping sites at Bundeena and North Era. These are the only places where camping is permitted within the park, and they are regulated with a booking/registration system, which requires pre-booking a site.

Geography, flora and fauna

The Royal National contains a wide variety of terrain. Roughly, the park moves from coastal cliffs broken by beaches and small inlets to an ancient high plateau broken by extensive and deep river valleys. The river valleys drain from south to north where they run into Port Hacking, the extensive but generally shallow harbour inlet which forms the northern border of the park. When looking across the park from east to west (or vice versa) the rugged folds of valley after valley fade into the distance.

Coastal heathland

Running the full coastal length of the park is a coastal heathland characterised by hardy, low-growing, salt-tolerant shrubs that spread across rocky, hard terrain with very little topsoil. The coast itself is composed mostly of high cliffs reaching a height of nearly two hundred metres  at the southern end. These cliffs are puntuated by a number of fine, sandy beaches open to the ocean and providing fine swimming and surfing. Several of the beaches can be reached by road, others only by several hours bush walking. There are a small number of rocky coves. The beaches, two of which have volunteer surf life saving clubs and large car parks, are amongst the most visited areas of the park.

















Exposed uplands

Moving farther inland the terrain rises to a series of very rocky ridges and plateaus characterised by hardy, low-growing shrubs and very  poor, rocky soil. These ridges are the remnants of an ancient, much larger plateau that has been deeply eroded into an extensive series of   river valleys

Valley sides

On the sides of the steep river valleys that punctuate the uplands the terrain changes to exposed rock with collected pockets of soil. Although still fairly rocky, a large number of eucalyptus and other tree species are prevalent. Small streams are to be found reasonably frequently and understory plants cohabitate with the larger trees, although the terrain is still fairly open and easy to move through. Tree heights in this area reach an average maximum of about ten metres. The plant mix and geography conditions in this area are typical of much of the terrain in the coastal areas of New South Wales.

Valley floors

With rich soils and good supply of water the valley floors are cooler and more humid than any other part of the park. Large tree species such as Australian Cedar and the larger Eucalypt species dominate. Tree height reach 30 metres or more and a rich understory of fern, wattles, and other medium-size plants proliferate. Some small areas are classified as temperate rainforest. These areas are characterised by dense groves  of very large trees including the iconic Port Jackson and Moreton Bay Fig trees. The absence of light leads to a lack of undergrowth other than a profusion of ferns. These are among the more popular areas for visitors to the park. The park service is also very careful to protect these areas due to their general rarity in the hot, arid Australian landscape.













Park highlights

· Audley 

Audley is a large, flat area at the base of one of the larger valleys in the park. The main road into the park from the north drops quickly from the heights to Audley, where it crosses the Hacking River on a weir before climbing up the other side of the valley to continue further into the park. Audley was developed in the late 19th century as a picnic area for Sydneysiders on a day trip. A large, heritage listed timber boathouse from that time still exists on the western bank of the weir and currently rents rowing boats and canoes to allow leisurely exploration of the upper reaches of the river. It also rents mountain bikes. A timber dance hall built in the early 20th century on the eastern bank is available for functions. Large picnic areas, grassy meadows and a café, rest rooms and a colony of hungry ducks complete the picnic picture. Audley is as popular with families today as it was in the 19th century. After a heavy rain the weir floods, closing the road and forcing the residents of Bundeena to drive an extra 30 kilometres to the southern end of the park if they wish to drive to Sydney.


· Jibbon Hill

This is the southern head of Port Hacking and has fine views over the Sutherland peninsula. Aboriginal rock art sites are visible.


· Eagle Rock

A unique rock formation near Curracarong, about halfway down the length of the park on the coast. It is a large rock outcrop that looks like an eagle's head when viewed from the side. The other remarkable feature of Curracarong are the several waterfalls which tumble over the cliffs and into the sea over one hundred metres below.


· Garie Beach 

One of the most popular coastal surf beaches in the park.


· Wattamolla Beach

has a large lagoon tucked behind the beach, which then enters the sea via an ankle-deep stream at one end of the beach. Families enjoy playing in the calm lagoon with their young children whilst adults enjoy the clean, even surf. Substantial parking and a canteen serving refreshments on summer weekends are also there.


· 'Figure 8' pool

south of Burning Palms


· Werrong beach

is one of the legal naturist beaches in the park. It faces east on the Pacific Ocean. The hill behind the beach is covered in trees and undergrowth. Those who camp overnight can be woken at dawn by wallabies wandering around the campsite.


· Lady Carrington Drive

Lady Carrington Drive was one of the early roads through the park. It runs south from Audley, roughly following the Hacking River upstream from the weir for a distance of about 10 kilometres (6 miles) to its end, where it meets the main sealed road through the park (there is limited parking at the southern end). The road was a popular carriage drive in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It had long been closed to traffic and now forms one of the most popular walking and cycling tracks in the park. It is mostly flat and well formed (although unsealed) and being a former road averages 4 to 5 metres (12 to 18 feet) in width. It passes through valley floor vegetation and in spring is lit up by brilliant yellow displays of wattle trees and oranges and reds of the Australian native Banksia trees and Waratah flowers. Many secondary schools in the Sutherland Shire area use Lady Carrington Drive for an annual sports or fundraising event where their students walk from the southern end through to Audley where a large barbecue picnic is held.


























The Royal National Parks offers several naturist beaches for experiencing harmony between nature and the human body. Listed places are:

· Little Jibbon Beach

· Jibbon Beach

· Ocean Beach

· Marley Beach

· Curracurrang

· Werrong Beach


Garie Beach 

located in the Royal National Park, on the outskirts of southern Sydney. Accessible via Garie Road and has a car park. It has no BBQ facilities but has toilets, a surf safety centre, a kiosk and a picnic area. A youth hostel is also located at Garie Beach.


Garie Beach has some of the best surfing waves in Sydney and is a very popular family beach destination. The Garie Surf Life Saving Club will provide an essential community service in helping to keep the public safe at the beach. Garie is home to the Garie Board Riders club. Garie Boardrider club has an active membership of just over 100 member on average and has been continually running as a boardriders club since 1978.

The club's books now have over 500 members on them and a lot of older members are returning to compete in the senior and masters divisions.

Garie Boardriders is affiliated with the Illawarra Area Boardriders Association and Surfing NSW and its members have competed up to Australia Titles level as well as a couple who competed at APSA and more recently ACC level.


The construction of the Garie Beach Surf Safety Centre is one component of a larger planning and construction program to improve the Garie Beach Valley for the enjoyment of beach users. Stage one of the program was completed in June 2005 and included constructing a 175-space car park, and restoring the creek line and the beach foredune.

Stage two involved designing, developing and constructing the Garie Beach Surf Safety Centre, landscaped forecourt and picnic areas. The surf safety centre, once completed, will contain public showers and toilets, a first aid room, kiosk, boat and equipment storage, a radio room, and meeting rooms and office space for the Garie Surf Life Saving Club. As there is no electricity, no sewerage system and no mains water   in the Garie Valley, the surf safety centre will be solar powered, and include a low-flush hybrid treatment system to provide flushing toilets which will use on-site biological treatment. Rainwater storage tanks will hold 31,600 litres of rainwater to provide showers for beach users.


There are two theories of the origins of the name. Garie is an Aboriginal word meaning 'sleepy'. The name could also be a deviation of the name of a bushranger called Geaty, who camped here.













Is a locality in the Royal National Park on the outskirts of southern Sydney. It is located about 2.5 km southeast of Gymea Bay on the southern side of Port Hacking.


Is a locality in the Royal National Park on the outskirts of southern Sydney. Wurumbul is located about 1.5 km southwest of Lilli Pilli on the southern side of Port Hacking.

Warumbul is the site of an Anglican Youth Department Conference Centre operated by Anglican Youth Works.













is the local Aboriginal name, meaning "place near running water". That name was recorded as Watta-Mowlee by Matthew Flinders, but is today spelt Wattamolla. Flinders and George Bass (and a boy, Martin, from their crew) stopped there in their boat the Tom Thumb on the evening of 29 March 1796. They had been pushed northwards in the boat along the high cliffs there by a gale and wanted to find a cove of some sort for shelter. At about 10pm they came upon breaking waves and Flinders thought the dark outline of cliffs ended and so turned the boat towards shore. They had found Wattamolla and in just moments were in the calm sheltered water of the lagoon. Such was their relief  that they were going to call it Providential Cove until learning later of its Aboriginal name.

Audley, Royal National Park

If 'messing about in boats' is your passion this summer, why not hire one from Audley boatshed and head upstream to picnic at Ironbark Flat or Wattle Forest.

Things to do: Audley, with its causeway and picnic lawns, was the centrepiece of Royal National Park's Victorian 'pleasure gardens' in the late 1800s. Today it still exudes a strong sense of Victorian park life – but with major improvements such as electric barbecues. Even visitors who never dip their oars in the water can relax with a picnic under the willows. The flat, grassy parklands around the weir are far removed from the bustle of modern city living. And if you have your own canoe, you'll be able to access delightful sites downstream of the weir. (Private craft aren't permitted on the upstream fresh water section of the weir.) Audley also marks the start of Lady Carrington Drive, one of the Royal's early carriageways. Now closed to motor vehicles, its rainforest and eucalypts make for a delightful walk or cycle along the river. If you can, have a vehicle at one end of the track and start walking from the other. Alternatively, walk one section and retrace your steps and come back another day to tackle the rest.

Distance/grade/time required: Lady Carrington Drive (one way) 10km; easy; 3 hours

Getting there:
By car (from Sydney or Wollongong via Bulli Tops) – Turn off the Princes Highway at Farnell Avenue, just south of Loftus.
By car (from Wollongong via Stanwell Tops) – Join Lawrence Hargrave Drive at Stanwell Tops for 5.5km, then bear right onto Lady Wakehurst Drive for 13km. This then becomes Sir Bertram Stevens Drive, which leads directly to Audley after about 15km.

By public transport (from Sydney) – Take the train to Loftus from Central Station that leaves about every 30 minutes on weekends. The trip takes about 45 minutes. Walk 2.5km to Audley by following the tram tracks from Sydney Tramway Museum then down the Honeymoon Track (not recommended in summer). On Sundays, Wednesdays or public holidays (except Christmas) catch a tram from the museum. If you catch a train to Cronulla, you can take a small boat cruise from Cronulla Wharf to Audley, which allows 3.5 hours in the park.

By public transport (from Wollongong) – Take the train to Waterfall that leaves Wollongong station about every hour, then change to the Illawarra line for the train to Loftus. From Loftus, follow the directions above.

… and getting away:
By car or public transport – Simply follow the directions above in the reverse order.

Cost: Cars entering the park need a vehicle day pass, which costs $11

Sutherland Shire DirectoryDIRECTORY 4U